Frampton primed to enter 'trenches' in Santa Cruz rematch

3 min

Los Angeles (AFP)

Unbeaten Carl Frampton believes he has the edge as he seeks to reprise his dazzling 2016 victory over Leo Santa Cruz when the two meet again Saturday for Frampton's World Boxing Association featherweight world title in Las Vegas.

"I think I'm going to get another win," Northern Ireland's Frampton said. "I feel like I've been improving during training and I feel like I'm getting stronger and punching harder. If I have to go into the trenches again, I'm prepared to do that."

Frampton emerged with a majority decision over Santa Cruz last July 30 in a bruising duel widely considered one of 2016's best fights.

"This is my second fight at featherweight, so I think I'm getting more used to the weight," Frampton added. "I feel more comfortable overall this time. Going into this fight, I have the psychological edge.

Frampton improved to 23-0 with 14 knockouts with his win over Santa Cruz and became the first fighter from Northern Ireland to win titles in two divisions.

He said he knows Santa Cruz will be eager to avenge the only defeat in his 32-1-1 record, but he has something to prove, too.

"I want to prove that the first fight wasn't a fluke and that I'm a better fighter," Frampton said.

"If I can get a lead on the scorecards and make him desperate, that's where I'm really going to capitalize," Frampton said. "I believe that if I hit anyone in these weight divisions clean on the chin, they can go down and out."

Santa Cruz is already eying a third fight against Frampton -- and he wants to go into that one on level terms.

"We want a trilogy," he said. "If I get the win, I will happily give him a third fight and make this a great rivalry that goes back-and-forth."

To make that happen, Santa Cruz said, "I have to be smarter in this fight.

"I need to be more patient. Frampton is a great counter-puncher so I think I need to counter the counter-puncher."

On the undercard, featherweight world champion Lee Selby of Wales puts his International Boxing Federation belt on the line against former world champion Jonathan Victor Barros.

Selby brings a record of 23-1 with eight knockouts to his second fight in the United States.

He earned a unanimous decision against Fernando Montiel in Arizona in his first defense of the title he won with a lopsided eighth-round technical decision over Evgeny Gradovich in May of 2015.

- UK unification -

"This is massive for where I came from," Selby said. "I think every boxer dreams of fighting in Las Vegas, especially in the UK. We've watched Floyd Mayweather fight here for years and we want to emulate that. It's not an unrealistic dream now."

Selby is hoping a victory over his Argentine rival would pave the way for a "huge unification" bout with Frampton.

In a third title fight on the card, unbeaten World Boxing Council lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin takes on Mikey Garcia.

Zlaticanin boasts a record of 22-0 with 15 knockouts, but he doesn't mind playing the underdog role with fans more familiar with the 35-0 American.

"I'm not surprised that everyone wants to talk about Mikey Garcia," the Montenegran champion's manager, Alex Vaysfeld, said. "We like it better that way. More motivation and it fires us up."

Zlaticanin said he's aiming for a decisive victory.

"If Mikey stands in the pocket with me, it will be a short night. If he wants to box, it will take a little longer. But my goal is still to knock him out," the champion said.